We’ve all been to the park and watched people pull that plastic bag of old bread out of their purse and start throwing pieces to the ducks, swans, geese or what-have-you. Maybe you have been the person feeding those lovely little waterfowl. But is that really the wisest decision?
Many people feel like they’re doing something nice for the birds at the park by providing them with a free meal, but if you, the couple down the street, and the three kids on the next block all feed the ducks every single week, that’s a lot of bread. Such a high-carbohydrate diet is not good for any animal. Feeding bread to the waterfowl you meet at parks leads to serious malnutrition and can even mess up the entire ecosystem.
Birds who have been fed too much bread over the course of their lifetimes can suffer from a malnutrition based deformity called angel wing. Though there has not been significant scientific proof that angels wings comes from bread eating, it is almost exclusively seen in birds from public areas.
Angel wing is the twisting out of the last joint in the wing so the distal part of the wing sticks out instead of lying against the body. It can be corrected by rehabilitation staff at sanctuaries in very young birds, but is almost always a death sentence for adults.
Adult birds with angel wing can not fly properly and therefore can not outrun predators, are forced to walk across roads where they may be hit by cars, or die of malnutrition.
Excess bread that isn’t eaten by the birds can also cause its fair share of damage. The bread sinks to the bottom of the pond, rots and creates smell and increases algae growth. Not only that but birds will flock (hah, pun) to the pond since it is an easy food source. This will cause an over population of birds, rats, mice, and other unwanted pests.
There is hope! You don’t need to give up on feeding your favorite fowl! Things like specially designed waterfowl foods (found at many outdoor shops), frozen/thawed peas, cut up grapes, or grains can be great and healthy alternatives to feed. But remember! Everything in moderation.